Last Updated: December 24, 2016
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OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve put this article off for almost two years. It’s a complex issue and I wanted to make it easy to understand, but not over simplified. What triggered my urge to get it done? A good intentioned, but poorly informed, flyer put out by a grocery chain about eating right. (Targeted towards youth soccer families.)

In this flyer they were discussing the recent negative press high carb / refined / processed foods were getting. They were stressing that eating only low carb food and complex carb foods was a “good replacement” for healthy eating. After my head exploded and I put the pieces back together, I sat down to write this.

First, if your child is obese, overweight, diabetic, or has other eating / health issues, this is not for you. I am talking about the healthy competitive soccer player that trains hard several times a week. Their body is a “PROCESSING MACHINE” and needs the right fuel at the right time. I have trained soccer players at all levels of play and ages; from young 7 year olds to professional players training 6 days a week, twice a day. Getting this right is more important than most people know.

Next, I will not be giving you a “lifetime eating chart”. I am focusing on the 24 – 48 hours prior to competing. REMEMBER… Long term body development, health and growth are different from pre-game preparations.

Important note… Kids are weird!
Get this straight. This is not a nutrition article from the USDA. It’s a REAL WORLD guide for youth soccer players. While much of the same information is used for adult players, we have to understand the “mind of the child” in this formula.
One of the key issues with youth players is that they often can’t overcome eating habits / tastes / phobias, for the sake of health and nutrition.
The greatest food NOT eaten? What if I told you about a TOP SECRET soccer drink? OK, put raw oysters, broccoli, and mushrooms into a blender, then add chicken broth and puree. Now set it in front of you child and see what happens.. NOTHING. It might be the secret to becoming a “star player” but guess what? It’s not going down. We have to face the reality. Younger athletes will generally eat a limited range of foods. Something simple as color, texture or smell can make them say, “No way.”

Also, youth players will generally “fill up” faster. Making sure that they get the PROPER carb intake is very important since their VOLUME of eating is generally lower. Whenever possible, eliminate ALL snacks near / just before meal time. They should come to the table hungry. (After main meals, snacking is encouraged.) Also, avoid large consumptions of fluids BEFORE eating. They should drink while they eat and afterwards. Large amounts of fluids will take away hunger and fill the stomach with low value volume.

Next, let’s figure out what to eat and when.

Step One…
Learn the groups. (Simplified)
Carb –Level 1 Pure “hyper energy” in its simplest form. (Sugars)
Carb –Level 2 Fast energy available within 1 – 4 hours. (Processed foods - white flour – starches – etc)
Carb –Level 3 Slow energy available within 3 – 7 hours. (Complex carbs – whole grains – roughage veggies – etc)
Protein – (Meats – Poultry – Eggs – Etc)

Step Two…
What do we use as “fuel”?
The body burns mostly carbohydrates as fuel. (Yes, fats and proteins are used but the body uses what is easiest first.) Excess fuel is first stored in many places including the red blood cells, muscles, and liver as Glycogen. Then once those reserves are full, it stores excess as body fat. Long distance runners and athletes that perform sports for long periods of time, actually start to burn fat for fuel. However, since most youth matches are limited to around an hour, we don’t see this much. Therefore, building reserves and refueling is critical.
The “stored fuel tank” will last different lengths in different players. Studies vary on this but most seem to indicate that somewhere around the 60 – 120 minute mark of continuous hard paced exercise is when stored fuel, glycogen reserves, can start to be depleted. This is often referred to as “hitting the wall”.

Step Three…
How are the fuels, processed, stored and delivered?
This is almost too complex of an issue to deal with thoroughly, however we are dealing with pre-game eating so this makes it easier. Just keep this thought in mind. The body will store excess fuel for later use. So, as game time approaches we want to “load” or even overload. We want our diet to be switched from “balanced” to over weighted with FUEL. (We cut down on fats and proteins, but not eliminate them, and focus on carbs.) The percentages vary from expert to expert but the number goes as high as 75% in some studies for pre-loading.

Important note… Slow steady fueling
We simply can’t shove large amounts of sugars or simple carbs into our body at the last minute, or close to game time. This may increase the release of insulin and actually hinder what we are trying to accomplish. (As well as trigger low blood sugar levels.) Therefore the best practice is a mixture of simple and complex carbs over a longer period of time. As game time approaches we run out of time for heavy digestion, so “easier” fuels are needed.
You will constantly hear that you should focus on “complex carbs” for long term loading, but let’s be real. They’re kids. You can’t force them to eat what they won’t, and they can only eat so much. We cannot apply the same rules to adult athletes to kids. If your child is an “eating machine” then you probably can go with this premise. However, I have seen too many youth players eat very little and fill up fast, not getting enough carbs. This is why I prefer to see youth players switched over to level 2 carbs for the last 12 - 24 hours.

24 – 48 hours before…
48 hours – 24 hours before game time we focus on a mixture of level 2, and 3 carbs as a higher part / percentage of our diet. The closer we get, the lower the number. Complex carbs are helpful the days before, but our body must do a larger amount of “work” to turn these into available energy or excess fuel for storage.

Complex carbs are harder for the body to “breakdown” and process. Our body actually has to burn energy (work harder) to digest these foods. Much more so than “simple carbs”. Our body works less for a greater amount of FUEL, therefore we have excess that will be stored. As game time approaches it does little good for us to fill our body with “future fuel”, (complex carbs). That is, fuel that will not be available until after the game, or being digested heavily during the game. Timing is critical.

Hours before… (and in-between matches on the same day)
If we have a game at 11am, it does us little good to be eating whole wheats, grains and raw vegetables at 8am. We need an energy source that will be READY very soon. We also don’t want our body to be heavy into a “hard digestive process” DURING the activity. So we would drop to level 2 carbs such as white flour based foods and “some” limited sugars. These will be converted much quicker and available to us sooner. We should also provide the body and digestive process with plenty of fluid. So, eating a big bowl of steel cut oatmeal an hour before the game will probably do more harm than good. It can also cause GI discomfort and steal energy for digestion with little to no return.

Last 90 minutes before and during…
Almost too late… Really at this point it is too late to try and fuel the body. Trying to go to level 1 carbs, (sugars) may trigger a hypoglycemic or even a hypoglycemic “type” reaction, Idiopathic postprandial syndrome. (I have seen this both in my own body and many youth players.) It also may trigger a spike in insulin release which will cause low blood sugar levels.

The last hour before the game (and during the game / half time) is used for liquids and mild levels of level 1 carbs. Sports drinks are formulated with a very low percentage of carbs for this reason. (Often in the 2% – 6% range)
During long matches your body may “shut down” digestion, so adding “fuel” at this point is probably not useful.

If any foods are eaten at this point they should be very limited and level 2 or 1 and 2 mixture.
A few crackers and some sports drink.

The Fuel Time Line… (Simplified)

The body will burn easy fuel first, fuel that is present in the blood stream and tissue.
Then it goes to reserves in the form of stored fuel, glycogen in the liver.
Next it will turn towards stored fuel in the muscles, glycogen, and finally it turns towards fat reserves.
Failure to fuel up prior to long training will start depleting the player’s muscle glycogen stores prematurely and most likely they will fall prone to the performance declining "wall."

Studies have shown that many of soccer players eat far below the optimal level of carbohydrate calories. As a result, many players BEGIN competitions with glycogen levels (fuel tank) which are sub-par. Players who start a match with low glycogen (stored fuel) usually have little carbohydrate left in their muscles by the time the second half starts.

Don’t confuse “healthy” with preparation, preloading, and pregame, diets.

Two examples of good thoughts gone bad.

1) I witnessed a loving mom make sure her child was eating healthy. The child, 12 years old, was playing in a soccer tournament. He had a game at 9am and another at 3pm. We all went out to eat after the first game and I watched her order steamed vegetables and grilled chicken for her son. His “fuel tank” had just been emptied from a tough game of soccer and needed to be refilled. From the above information in this article, you can see her mistake. Needless to say he hit the “fuel wall” even before the game started. He was pulled out of the 2nd game after the first half and had nothing left. Good “general health” concerns don’t always help the competitive athlete during competition. If you need some more proof of this, just Google “Michael Phelps diet”….

2) The coach doesn’t always know best. I listened to a coach yelling at some players for eating pancakes in-between the same games. He said, “You should be eating something like pasta, not pancakes.” I just shook my head and kept my mouth shut. I’m assuming that the coach never made pancakes or pasta from scratch. (Almost identical ingredients) Again, from the above you now know that level 2 carbs are what the players should be eating. Pancakes with fruit and light syrup are a fantastic refueling meal when you only have a few hours before the next game. Not understanding what actually makes up the food you eat is BIG mistake I often see.

Remember, a balanced healthy diet is great for kids in general. However, competitive young athletes that train several times a week, and often play one to two games per weekend, are a totally different beast.
These young players are true athletes, but they often have limits, habits, or likes that are different from mature adult players. Making sure we “work around” these is critical.

Simple list of some GOOD refueling / preloading foods.
When you need carbs fast to preload or refuel for the next game.
Pasta, pancakes, waffles, toast, breads, potatoes, deep dish pizza.
Most dry cereals not highly concentrated with whole grains only and low sugar.
(Not 100% bran flakes, but rather corn or rice based / processed cereal.)
Bananas, oranges, grapes are high in sugar fruits and are good.
Sports drinks, strawberry and chocolate milk as well as the new V8 Fusion Fruit drinks.
Snack crackers and cookies are a good filler and a snack that can be taken anywhere / thrown into a soccer bag with a sports drink.
Once players have eaten their main meal, they should be encouraged to “snack” often, especially the night before the game. The body talks and we should listen. If it says, “I’m hungry”, then eat.

What to stay away from.
Large portions of fats and meats.
Soda (replace with juices)
100% high grain foods / extreme high fiber foods with low sugars and low simple carbs.
Low calorie foods such as sugar free jello.

A great soccer breakfast menu….
One of Coach V’s top picks for breakfast the day of the game.
Cream of Wheat, cooked with milk. Add honey at last minute and some sliced bananas. Readymade / frozen waffles with light amount of syrup if desired or Jam.
Large glass of V8 Fusion fruit drink.

Keep Notes and Adjust the Diet…
Remember, every human is different and reacts individually to certain foods. If you your soccer player has a bad GI reaction to eating bananas before the game, STOP EATING THEM. If the higher sugar levels or excess simple carbs trigger a low blood sugar reaction, make notes and change it.
Again, kids are kids and VERY FEW will eat to properly prepare for a soccer match on their own. The parent / coach needs to offer and implement these guidelines. Make a simple list of “do’s and don’ts” that all can understand.

-Coach V.

Extended Sleep Improves The Athletic Performance Of Collegiate Basketball Players
Stanford study is the first to document how sleep extension affects the performance of actively competing athletes

DARIEN, Ill. – A study in the July 1 issue of the journal SLEEP shows that sleep extension is beneficial to athletic performance, reaction time, vigor, fatigue and mood in collegiate basketball players. The study is the first to document sleep extension and the athletic performance of actively competing athletes.

Results of objective measurements show that the mean total sleep time per night during sleep extension was 110.9 minutes longer than at baseline. Indices of athletic performance specific to basketball were measured after every practice to assess changes in performance. Speed during 282-foot sprints improved significantly from 16.2 seconds at baseline to 15.5 seconds after sleep extension, and shooting accuracy increased significantly by nine percent on both free throws and three-point field goals. Subjects also reported improved overall ratings of physical and mental well-being during practices and games.

"Following multiple weeks of sleep extension, elite athletes demonstrated improvements in specific indicators of basketball athletic performance including higher shooting percentages and faster sprint times," said lead author Cheri D. Mah, MS, researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory in Stanford, Calif. "Subjects also demonstrated faster reaction time, decreased levels of daytime sleepiness, and mood improvements."

The study involved 11 healthy students on the Stanford University men's varsity basketball team and was conducted during two basketball seasons from 2005 to 2008. Participants had a mean age of 19 years and an average height of about six feet and four inches. Eight of the players were guards, two were forwards and one was a center.

Total sleep time was measured objectively by actigraphy. The players maintained their habitual sleep-wake schedule for a baseline period of two to four weeks during the NCAA basketball season, sleeping for an average of less than seven hours per night. The following period of sleep extension lasted five to seven weeks, during which the participants obtained as much nocturnal sleep as possible with a minimum goal of 10 hours in bed per night. Objective mean total sleep time during sleep extension was nearly 8.5 hours per night.

Participants shot 10 free throws from 15 feet, making an average of 7.9 shots at baseline and 8.8 shots at the end of the sleep extension period. They also attempted 15 three-point field goals, making an average of 10.2 shots at baseline and 11.6 shots after sleep extension. The timed sprint involved running from baseline to half-court and back to baseline, then the full 94-foot length of the court and back to baseline. Reaction time, levels of daytime sleepiness, and mood were monitored using the Psychomotor Vigilance Task, Epworth Sleepiness Scale and Profile of Mood States.

Mah said that she was especially intrigued to find that sleep extension was associated with improvements in diverse basketball skills.

"It was interesting to note that sleep extension significantly improved different measures of physical performance in basketball from shooting percentages to sprinting times," she said.

According to Mah, an athlete's nightly sleep requirement should be considered integral to attaining peak performance in all levels of sports. She offered these tips to help athletes improve their performance by maximizing their sleep:

·Prioritize sleep as a part of your regular training regimen.

·Extend nightly sleep for several weeks to reduce your sleep debt before competition.

·Maintain a low sleep debt by obtaining a sufficient amount of nightly sleep (seven to nine hours for adults, nine or more hours for teens and young adults).

·Keep a regular sleep-wake schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same times every day.

·Take brief 20-30 minute naps to obtain additional sleep during the day, especially if drowsy.

Mah presented preliminary results from this study at SLEEP 2007, the 21st annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, in Minneapolis, Minn. The results are consistent with similar research she has performed at Stanford involving men and women who compete in other sports such as football, tennis, and swimming.

* * * * Thank You Valerie Quinn for this Article * * * **





Chocolate Milk For Youth Soccer Players?

Dump the after game snacks and hand out the CHOCOLATE MILK.

Yes, you heard me right. Believe it or not I was finally right about a “theory” I have had for several years.

When you take a look sports drinks they have very similar attributes to those of chocolate milk. My assumption was that there would be little difference between children drinking chocolate milk after a soccer game vs. a sports drink. Guess what? It looks like I was right.

Indiana University conducted a study in conjunction with a grant from the dairy council. They wanted to put “my” theory to the test. The results were just as I thought they would be. “As compared to the commercial products tested, (sports recovery drinks), chocolate milk is an effective recovery aid following exhausting exercise.”

Why is chocolate milk good for youth soccer players after a game?

The study found that athletes who drank chocolate milk after an intense bout of exercise were able to workout longer and with more power during a second workout compared to athletes who drank commercial sports beverages.

I have also been a fan of drinks that incorporate protein in their carbohydrate formula. (Such as Accelerade.) Researchers stated, "Chocolate milk contains an optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio, which is critical for helping refuel tired muscles after strenuous exercise and can enable athletes to exercise at a high intensity during subsequent workouts."

Some common sense points…

1) Kids don’t drink to “re-hydrate” like athletes. They drink only when they are thirsty or when something tastes good. Tricking them into drinking more because something tastes great makes sense for any one who has dealt with young athletes.

2) The addition of protein is good for muscle recovery, growth and refueling.

3) Milk is naturally high in Potassium. My kids don’t like bananas.

Confirming these results was a study by Dr. Janet Walberg-Rankin and co-workers at Virginia Tech. This study compared body composition and muscle function responses to resistance training in males who consumed a carb drink (Gatorade) or chocolate milk following each training session. Chocolate milk consumption immediately after each workout tended to increase lean body mass and body weight compared to supplementation with carbs. This study clearly shows that carbs-only post-exercise beverages don’t cut it.

The one thing you want to keep however is that you want to select a non-fat or skim chocolate milk. Forty-eight percent of the calories in whole milk come from fat; 33 percent of the calories in 2% milk come from fat; 20 percent of the calories in 1% milk come from fat, and 0 percent of the calories from skim milk come from fat. So, when reaching for chocolate milk as your post-workout recovery drink of choice, choose the non-fat version.

Before you start laughing about handing out chocolate milk after a game, think about the junk in the snack box they’re about to eat.

Hey, if it’s my choice between a soda and a hot dog or a large jug of chocolate milk, you know which one I will choose.

-Coach V.



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FC Elk Grove is pleased to announce its 4th Annual Academic All American Awards.  All current FC Players with a 3.3 Grade Point Average are eligible to apply to be recognized for achievement in sports and academics.
Click here for our 2015/2016 application.
The goal of our Academic program is to reinforce the importance of  education in the lives of our players.  We want to encourage our
players to balance their responsibilities at home, school, and extra-curricular activities.   We wish to honor good grades, citizenship, and community participation within the framework of the sport of soccer through FC Elk Grove.

All current FCEG players with a 3.3 GPA are eligible to apply.  In addition, our players who are heading off to college in the fall are also eligible to apply for a financial scholarship to help fund some of their expenses as they begin their college careers.

Complete the application and mail it as instructed on or 
before July 25, 2016.  Late or partial applications will not be accepted.

Don't miss this opportunity

If you have any questions please email:
Elk Grove Soccer
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 63, Elk Grove, CA 95757

Office: 9880 Waterman Rd, Suite 100, Elk Grove, CA

Phone: (916) 682-6500 - Email:


Elk Grove Youth Soccer League, P.O. Box 63, Elk Grove, CA 95759